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Many Long Islanders Need Immigration Reform

Alexa Palermo |
August 2, 2013 | 10:13 a.m. PDT

Guest contributor

(Long Island City/Creative Commons)
(Long Island City/Creative Commons)
Greg March’s grandfather came here as an illegal immigrant from Italy to have a better life decades ago and now they do. 

March, who works at the town’s music store, the Family Melody Center, doesn’t remember much about his grandfather’s immigration but he does remember that it was hard for his grandfather to get work here and he kept going back and forth between America and Italy. 

In Patchogue, immigration is an important topic because the town is 30% minority and immigrants are a large part of the town’s demographics. Patchogue is a small village 60 miles east of Manhattan. The town is home to family-owned restaurants, theaters and shops. Main street holds many of the towns main events and is the place that everyone comes once a year on Patchogue Day.

March follows the immigration reform debate, but not closely. March believes that law-abiding citizens deserve amnesty. “We should allow people who are a benefit to our country, to stay legally and contribute. We should not allow drug cartel people and criminals into the country.  To avoid this, we should do a thorough background check on the immigrant for potential citizenship. Most people want to come here for a better life so we should let them.” 

He opposes building a wall, which Tim Bishop, the Congressman for District 1, does favor, but March agrees that we need some sort of border control. March believes that we should not prevent immigrants access to our country. “We should still give people some opportunities. We shouldn’t make it easier to get in, but we should make it more convenient for good upstanding citizens to become a part of this country. If an upstanding citizen wants to move here, I don’t see why we should deny him.”

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, talked about one of the biggest issues currently facing the community, a $100 million development downtown. “The problem is that we are worried about it getting completed well and on time with all the different challenges going on to our community. It is going to be 40,000-square-feet of retail space that is user friendly. It is a big project and we have an issue with parking and making sure that we have the right amount of parking.”  He says that what the community and people living here need and think are critical to the economic success of the investments in Patchogue.

“Immigration is a part of our community. Patchogue is 30% minority and we have to make sure that everyone feels welcome.” Pontieri then referred to an incident that happened years ago that divided the community so he is very sensitive to the inclusion of all people that live in Patchogue.

Shortly before midnight on Nov. 8, 2008, seven teenagers surrounded and attacked two Latino men outside of a train station in Patchogue, Long Island. Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant who worked at a local dry cleaning store, was stabbed in the chest and left to die. The teens were convicted of gang assault; prosecutors said the attack was part of targeted hate crimes against Latinos in the area.

“On the local level the issue of undocumented workers as opposed to documented workers is irrelevant. It has no affect on the issue because we as a local community don’t have the authority to say whether a person can be here or not and we need to make it safe and welcoming for everyone. Minority housing is a problem. We need to make sure that their houses are safe and not over crowded,” said Pontieri. 

“It is one thing to have adults make a decision to live in circumstances, but when you bring a five year old over here and they grow up more American than they are Mexican, we need to think ahead. I believe you can’t say that they aren’t part of this community and aren’t citizens. We need to take care of them.” 

Bishop voted yes for building a fence along the Mexican boarder although many residents of the community do not believe it is a good use of money. When asked how he plans to engage with the community on this issue, his spokesperson, Oliver Longwell said, “There has to be a balance. Congressman Bishop believes in a comprehensive immigration reform.”

Some of the residents of Patchogue believe that Congress is not handling this issue effectively. Longwell said, “Bishop became congressman ten and a half years ago and he has said many times that since he became a member of Congress that this is the best climate that he has been in for immigration reform.”

“Nothing can prevent [immigrants coming here illegally]. It seems pretty clear there will always be people who are willing to break the law and risk their lives to come to this country” Longwell said. “We just need to verify that people are here for the right reasons.”


New York's 1st Congressional District Fact Box

Total Voter turnout 2012: 254,003

Democrats, working families: 52.5%

Republican, Conservative and Independent: 47.5%

Total Population: 642,032

Male: 315,428—49.1%

Female: 326,604—50.9%

White: 572,127—89.1%

Black: 27,769—4.3%

Asian: 15,405—2.4%

Hispanic or Latino: 13,245—2.1%

Average Household Income: $74,633

Per capita income: $25,899

For the 2012 elections:

Registered Voters: 91,244

Turnout: 57,245

62.7% of the registered voting population for District 1 voted in the 2012 primary elections.


Reach Guest Contributor Alexa Palermo here



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